Going Backstage and Behind the Scenes
Georgetown theater groups bring original and classic plays to life
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 01:09
While best known for its academic programs, Georgetown’s strengths don’t solely lie solely in the intellectual realm. The university also boasts an exceptionally vibrant theater scene, with multiple performing groups like the Mask & Bauble Dramatic Society, the Black Theatre Ensemble, the Children’s Theater and more. Their most recent notable productions include “The History Boys,” “The Bald Soprano” and “Trojan Barbie.” This year, students can anticipate more exciting productions, thanks to the untiring enthusiasts behind the scenes.
The performing groups on campus are completely student run, but the quality of their productions is highly professional — partly thanks to strong support from the department of performing arts. Though theater programs sometimes fly under the radar at Georgetown, the students who participate in them tout their strength.
“It’s second best in the country as far as theater rankings go,” said Nehemiah Markos (COL ’14), current assistant producer for the Black Theater Ensemble and co-director for the play “Patient A.” The faculty is also extremely supportive of the student productions.
“These professionals who work at the department will come in and become mentors to us,” Caleb Lewis (COL ’16) said.
Lewis’ experience is representative of typical theater involvement. Last year, he was cast in “The History Boys,” one of Mask & Bauble’s biggest productions of the year last year, and now he will be co-director of the play “How to Succeed With Dolls.” The theater production requires the collaboration of many different roles: writer, producer, director, stage manager, tech assistants and actors. Be it center-stage or backstage, the combination of all these collective efforts results in such a successful final product.
“The audience misses a lot,” “Patient A” co-director Joshua Street (COL ’15) said of the production process. “It is the task of the cast and crew to make the production look effortless,” Street said.
But behind the scenes, with tight timing of around only one month to complete the play, there are not only frequent rehearsals but also bureaucratic procedures to address, technological details and set-ups to be finished and perfected and other logistics. “It’s a lot of pains, a lot of tears, a lot of shouting at people. It’s dangerous backstage,” Street said.
It is not always easy for the students involved in theater, either. The time commitment required by each production is considered one of the biggest challenges of participating in Georgetown theater.
“The struggle has been finding a productive balance between theater, school and sleep. Sleep usually loses out,” said Mask & Bauble Technical Director Michael Donnay (COL ’16), who is currently stage manager for the group’s fall production, “Don’t Drink the Water.”
It doesn’t make it any easier that Georgetown students are all highly motivated people who try to be involved in as many extracurriculars as possible.
“At Georgetown, if you are working with students who are involved in one extracurricular, they are probably also involved in a hundred other extracurriculars,” said Gianna Maita (COL ’15), co-writer and co-director of the Children’s Theater production, “Painters and Pirates.”
Finding the balance between different obligations can be problematic for the theater enthusiasts in Georgetown, but there are multiple reasons that ensure the theater community stays intact despite the difficulties. For Lewis, the huge time commitment required by theater is both a blessing and a curse. The fact that theater people have to interact with each other almost every day leads to an intimate bond among the cast and crew.
“We work hard to try to make it that way so that people know that we are here for each other. Also, theater people are just interesting people, and we just want to be with each other,” Lewis said.
Maita attests to the strength of the bond: There are goofy warm-up exercises before rehearsals, after-rehearsal activities and other get-together sessions to help to build a close community. Moreover, upperclassmen try to reach out to younger students, acting as mentors, both in the theater program and outside of it.
Some also see theater as a channel to create with one’s own hands. Donnay, who has mostly been in charge of the technological side of theater, including tasks such as set building, stage managing and sound and light control, said that set building is one of his favorite parts about working in the theater, even though it is no easy task. “There were a lot of late nights,where a couple of us will go with a couple of saws and for hours at a time we’ll cut out these really complicated shapes,” Donnay described his experience with “Spring Awakening,” a production last spring. “[But] I get to see something that I have a hand in creating come together in a really visible way,” he said.
For others, theater provides a refreshing break from Georgetown’s often competitive, career-driven culture.
“Theater is one of the places where are you encouraged to do something different,” Markos said.
In the theater, where diversity is appreciated and students’ attention shifts from beyond post-grad career plans to just enjoying the college experience. It also creates a community where members can explore interests that may not fall into the traditional academic sphere.